Picture hundreds of people huddled around,smoking cigarettes, drinking beers under the bright lights of the grand marquee waiting to get into the show. Now take that image and think the complete opposite and that is the feel of the Alec Ounsworth (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) living room tour. If a patron of the concert at Big Blue North Studios in Utica didn’t have specific directions and overview of what they were in for, they would have thought they were in the wrong place. A huge church that Big Blue North Studios now calls home was dark with nothing but a candlelit pathway leading to the entrance on January 28th.
A kind woman was at the door, taking names, letting fans know that coffee and tea were available to the right. Yup, you heard it right coffee and tea. This was a concert? The ambiance at this point was that of an AA meeting. Confusion filled the room; confusion and anticipation. As the crowd of 40 people or so sat in metal folding chairs, the stage was set up just as if it were a living room (hence the tours name) with ablack and white TV with a scrambled image, a tan fuzzy chair, a fireplace, a table and a microphone in the middle of it all. Intimate doesn’t even begin to describe the atmosphere. When Ounsworth walked through the crowd and stepped on stage he had everyone’s utmost attention.
This was more than a show, it was an experience, a rare one at that. Seeing an indie hero such as Alec Ounsworth playing his usually fast paced songs, stripped down and played completely different, while the farthest person away from him was 20 feet away. Ounsworth proved to his fans that he still has it and with the new formation of CYHSY, the new album has nothing but the possibility of greatness.
Opening up with the beautiful David Bowie classic “Absolute Beginners” highlighted Ounsworth’s vocal range and not stretching it too far to get a feel for how the room would sound with an audience. The intimacy was so apparent that Ounsworth not only didn’t mind fan interaction, but encouraged it. By talking to the fans throughout. When he played “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood”, a classic off the CYHSY self-titled debut album, there were people quietly sitting but yet moving to the music, smiling, mouthing the words, as not to disturb the ambiance of the room. At this point where the man of the hour started to cough, and sniffle a bit, making comments implying he may have a cold, but not only didn’t he stop the show, or take a break, he continued his high pitch on the verge of whiny vocals. Ounsworth offered fans a treat by playing “Blameless”, a new song off the full bands album set for a spring release, transitioning smoothly into “In this Home on Ice”, stripped down, even more so than the song’s previous versions. The show closed with “Underwater (you and me)”, off the bands second album Some Loud Thunder, a spectacular way to end the set. Arguably the bands most beautiful song made even that much more due to the intimate surroundings.
Ounsworth proved to his fans that he still has it and with the new formation of CYHSY, the new album has nothing but the possibility of greatness.